STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Heading into next season, NittanyNation takes a closer look at holes left by departing Penn State players and the candidates who might fill them.
Who: The defensive line was a strength for Penn State, and Sean Stanley was the Nittany Lions' best end at stopping the run. He played in 46 career games -- starting 19 times -- and there was no controversy heading into 2012 over who would be starting there. Pete Massaro had limited action because of a slew of injuries but remained an above-average backup who played in nine games. He added quality depth to the ends.
By the numbers: Penn State boasted the nation's No. 23 rushing defense, and Stanley was second on the line with 35 tackles. He had 9.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and contributed toward three turnovers. Massaro had just eight tackles, broke up a pass and finished with one stop in the backfield.
Job description: If there was one weakness here, it was containing runs to the outside. The next defensive end must improve upon that, although none will be as seasoned as Stanley. At 6-foot-1 and 243 pounds, the next starter will undoubtedly be bigger and might even bat down a few more passes. PSU's starting defensive line didn't disrupt the throwing lanes too much and broke up just two passes the whole season. Massaro will be much easier to replace.
Top candidates: Rising redshirt sophomore Anthony Zettel and rising redshirt junior C.J. Olaniyan saw more time than Massaro, and both will be counted on even more in 2013. One will likely take over for Stanley, and the other will be the primary backup. Olaniyan is a very athletic end who can stop the run; Zettel is a strong, quick lineman who played basketball in high school.
One to watch: Zettel. At 6-5, he would be the tallest starter on the line, and he showed flashes of potential throughout the season. In a span of 14 plays against Navy, Zettel came away with six tackles and two sacks. He showed the ability to take over a game and finished third on the team with four sacks.